My reviews of 360 games are tainted by the fact I’m playing on a 27in standard def TV that ain’t so hot to start with. I’ve decided to try buying an adapter so I can plug my 360 into my 24in LCD. But in the meantime…
The last GTA game I really got into was Vice City, back on the PS2 (Tim’s Play Station 2, back when I was sharing a house with two colleagues from Demon in 2000-2002). San Andreas felt claustrophobic to me, not because it wasn’t huge but because the camera angles just didn’t give me the same sense of situational awareness.
I had fairly high hopes for GTA IV, and graphically its quite pretty. As yet, though, it just hasn’t caught me.
The animations seem remarkably stunted. There are wonderful moments of flowing elegance and then there are sharp and unpleasant transitions. I realize walking is the lesser mode of transport but even so, they could have made sure that most of the time walking is graceful.
That said, there’s a whole lot of new stuff in 4. There’s a whole bunch of cell phone stuff that is clearly going to be fun. They also integrated a whole bunch of the mini-game stuff, making it part of your building reputation with “friend”s. There’s also a sort of dating sub-game. When I took my date, Michelle, to a bar and got wasted, the resulting drunken swagger drew a genuine belly laugh, which redoubled when I saw the name of the unlocked achievement :)
The streets look ever more realistic, and I can see I’m going to be spending a whole lot of time on foot exploring the wonderful city layout in addition to cruising around.
It seems that the developers wanted to make the game more challenging this time around: fighting seems a lot harder and the poor s.o.bs seem to drop a lot less cash etc. I have yet to see anything that was clearly a jump or a ramp. There are cops almost everywhere and in the 4 or 5 hours I played today I’ve had to load games a bunch of times after getting nabbed by the cops; it might just be that it’s taking me my sweet time to learn the streets so I can’t make my escape as easily as in previous playing sessions, or it might just be that the cops drive smarter. I can’t decide.
I also seem to be continually fighting the camera, especially when walking.
The cars all handle a little more like racing sims than they have in previous versions, although there’s still that bit of a sense of point and go, just more or less responsive depending on the vehicle.
Right now, though, I honestly can’t decide if I am enjoying the game or not. I might try the Live Gold subscription and try hooking up in “Free” mode with a friend, that does sound kinda cool, if I can get the hang of the city a little better. The pacing of the storyline might be a factor, not really giving you chance to settle in and look around, just as you start exploring one of the storyline characters calls you and suddenly you’re on a time-limited activity that you feel you shouldn’t miss because you don’t want to screw up the tutorial phase.
I’m fairly sure that the lion’s share of my problem is just that my TV sucks. I know, I’ve been saying that forever. I finally took a tape measure to the TV and discovered that it’s not a 37in, it’s actually a 27in, which makes upgrading a whole heck of a lot more afforable. So I might get myself a nice LCD somewhere in the 37-42in range this week.
I also got Mass Effect this week, and I’ve played a couple of hours of that; I can see I will probably get along quite well with that game but … it feels a hell of a lot like they were making KOTOR3 but didn’t get a license from Lucas and rebadged it. Biotics = Force, Renegade = Dark Side. There’s the robot alien that has to state the emotional content of what it’s about to say. And the ships/views all have that familiar, KOTOR look to them — that I don’t really mind.
Again, I keep being dragged out of immersion by jarring animation transitions, although I get the feeling those are DVD accesss related, which brings me to a real annoyance of mine: I didn’t buy a 360 with a hard drive so I’d have 20gb of save game space, or lots of space to download cheapo games onto. I’d thought the drive would be usable by games to bolster the limited amount of RAM. Of course, Microsoft don’t want people being discouraged from buying the lesser unit so … they put a crimp in that.
I can’t help but think I should have waited for Mass Effect to come out on the PC; I’ll try it again when I get the new TV because I imagine it’s gonna look sweet, but I don’t see myself playing it on the 360 that much.